Steady Diet of Film and A Million Movies a Minute took me to see an early morning screening of Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox on a Monday a couple of weeks ago. I was very happy and intrigued to finally see this movie that has generated so much gossip over the years. I went in with mixed bag of mistrust of Anderson (due to his preciousness and apparent fondness for the trappings/culture of colonial rule- like servants and complete disregard for others, women etc.) and thrill for the amazing team of animators that got to make a lovely feature using old-school flocked puppets and hand-crafted sets. Also, I used to be a big fan of Anderson's- all the way through Royal Tenenbaums- which I loved in spite of myself and my feminism.
So, it seems, in other reviews that everyone just LOVED this movie, but I still have mixed feelings. I was thoroughly entertained, only annoyed a little bit by the things I expected to be annoyed by- I'm so over those yellow titles and other played-out gimmicks. But, maybe I'd have enjoyed them or at least forgiven them if I wasn't still so irritated by Anderson just thinking about him, before a cell of film rolled.
The animation was flawless, rich, lovely and a testament to the possible genius of directing a stop motion feature via email. (Would Coraline have been done on time if Selick had been to precious and neurotic/whatever to come to Hilsboro, Oregon?) The puppet work, sets, and motion was exemplary, and I never tired of watching that perfect work.
I'll hand this to Anderson- the direction of the actors was refreshingly perfect. I have often wondered when watching animated films if the voice work was even directed. Sorry, but you can almost hear Terri Hatcher turning the pages as she reads, rather than acts, for Coraline. And, it's only made worse by Dakota Fanning's excellent work- resulting in a large cast of voices that are all performing in different films. I'm using Coraline as an example here, but this could be said easily of many, many animated films and short programs of the last 70 years or so. All of the brilliant performers in Mr. Fox were clearly well directed, not just good performers. They were in the same film, the same story, and performed at the same level and quality- which was high.
You can hear Erin and I discuss this film in greater detail here.
Go see it in the theater if you love stop-motion, wait for rental/cable/library if you love Roald Dahl and/or kids movies. Or see it in the theater because there really is little else of any apparent quality in the theaters right now!